Even if you have no good reason to justify buying one, you have to admit that drones are cool. Some are glorified tech toys, but most models we highlight here are fit for use in imaging and cinematic applications small and large. If you think you can use a flying camera in your next project, there’s some good news—the tech has come a long way in a very short time. There are models on the market now that put earlier copters to shame in terms of video quality and stabilization.
And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to be ready to spend some cash. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one. We’ve tested many of the ready-to-fly models on the market to determine what’s important to look for, and the $100 drones you should check availability.
DRONE REGULATIONS AND SAFETY TIPS
To celebrate World Drone Day, which is totally not a made-up thing, and happens on May 6 every year, Currys has come up with this rather epic guide to safe drone flying:
- Don’t fly near airports or airfields
- Remember to stay below 400ft (120m)
- Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
- We’d really like to think that nobody needs to be told any of the above.
- And in truth, anyone who does fly a drone near aircraft probably deserves to go to prison.
- Sure, we don’t know that a drone can bring down a 747, but we are very sure that we also don’t want to test the theory. Ever.
If you’re in doubt about drone regulations and are confused about where you can and can’t fly your drone, head to the Civil Aviation Authority’s website and gen up on the latest drone regulations. You can also check out Drone Code UK, which has a handy downloadable PDF with essential information regarding drone flying rules.
Now, with those stern words out of the way, here is the List of Best drone cameras by nvdrones.com our expert guide available right now, listed in order of excellence, so that you can find the very best drone for you, your needs and budget.
How to choose the best camera drone for you
There are some features to keep in mind compared to shopping for a regular camera.
- Sensor and lenses: You will probably have to accept a smaller sensor size, and no zoom lens. Less glass means less weight, which means a longer flight time.
- Vibration: this can be an issue too; the fast turning props and sudden movements are not ideal for still or video photography.
- Control: this is either via your phone’s limited Wi-Fi range or a separate controller using radio frequency (but probably your phone, too, to view the live video).
- Collision detection: drone makers have sought to combat the risk of collision using sensors – partly to help you out, but also to head off criticism from governing bodies keen to avoid serious accidents.
- Regulations: while it’s not yet compulsory to register a drone in the UK, the regulations surrounding ownership and use are set to change in November 2019. New drone pilots in the UK should check out the Drone Code. Regulations are much tighter in the US, full details of which can be found via the Federal Aviation Administration website.
- DJI Inspire 2 with a Zenmuse X5S camera
This big, heavy drone is among the best for beautiful, high-resolution, professional video, with stabilization, collision avoidance, high-contrast capabilities and controls that users report are remarkably easy to operate for such a high-end machine. With a Zenmuse X5S camera, it takes 4K-plus video (recording at up to 5.2K in traditional professional formats) and includes a 360-degree gimbal.
The camera isn’t the only nice thing about the Inspire 2; it’s fast, topping out at around 50 mph in five seconds, and smart, avoiding collisions and finding its way home if you get lost. A dual-battery system gives you about 27 minutes of flight, and it heats itself so it can fly when it’s cold. It has a separate FPV (first-person view) camera and streaming capabilities, so if you want to film with a buddy, one of you can drive it and the other can direct the shot.
The Inspire 2 comes in a number of configurations. But if you’re spending this much on a drone system, be sure to spring for the X5S camera, which is not included, and budget even more to buy a lens.
- Parrot Anafi
This lightweight, the bug-like drone might be small, but its photography chops are among the most impressive around. Its camera has 180 degrees of vertical range, which enables it to take photos directly upwards – a feat no other drone can match. It also has a 2.8x zoomable lens with no image quality reduction.
The Parrot Anafi is a particularly good choice for selfie fans. Its Follow Me mode tracks your movements, adjusting automatically for more photogenic angles, and its SmartDronies modes – Orbit, Parabola, Boomerang, and Tornado – cause the drone to fly around you in various circles and arcs. The main drawback is the Parrot Anafi’s lack of obstacle avoidance, which makes it hard to recommend to new users. It’s also a shame that a couple of flight modes are locked away as extra in-app purchases after you’ve paid for the drone.
- ZeroTech Dobby
This is the smallest drone featured in this list, and also one of the cheapest. Despite its humble status (and rather odd name), the Dobby is a surprisingly powerful and versatile piece of kit. Pitched by ZeroTech as a ‘selfie drone’, it’s small enough to fit in your bag, which gives it an advantage over many drones, which are often too large to be carried around easily.
The small size of the Dobby means it gets battered around in strong winds, but on a good day its performance is impressive. It’s controlled via a smartphone application and features such as orbital moves, object tracking, and facial recognition are all included as standard and are easy to execute. The drone’s audio and visual sensors, fixed on its underside, mean you can perform palm take-offs and landings, and you can use it indoors.
For such a small drone it should come as no surprise to learn that stamina is perhaps the biggest sticking point with the Dobby – the battery lasts between five and 10 minutes, depending on variables such as wind speed and recording time. Photo and video quality are also a step down from some of the more expensive drones on this list.